FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 1989-2004


Hans-Jürgen Linke


No idea how it works. Inexplicable. But maybe we can at least describe it?

Even experienced listeners occasionally sense something strange - although this happens less frequently as the years go by. For example, you suddenly find yourself standing on a chair and don't know how you got there. Or, walking the long way home after a concert, you seem to be floating on air, and catch yourself even smiling at nocturnal drunkards like a baby who has just been fed.

What has happened? Maybe you have just heard the Trio de CIarinettes.

From left to the right: Jacques di Donato, Louis ScIavis, Armand Angster. Perhaps one should acid, although (or even because) it cannot be heard, that all three are dressed in black - both quoting, and at the same time mocking the dress-regulations of the music-branch called CIassical with a capital C. Black suggests a strict adherence to form, and refers at the same time to the most important thing on stage: the black wooden-barrelled cIarinets with their pale silver keys. The instruments and the men playing them look as though they are related, as if they are part of one another.

To sum it up: Three men, seven cIarinets, black and silver. Music.

Three men with a sound musical foundation in contemporary cIassical music, in improvised music of the most various origin, searching for imaginary folklore. A wealth of experience from three different sources are blended together. It becomes apparent that they are of a similar composition: In their attitude to music, which places emphasis on commitment and precision; in their virtuosity, which lacks all sense of self-importance but is instead a means towards precision, commitment and presence of mind on stage; in their musicality which is deeply serious, and at the same time mercurial enough not to accept the conventional as the limit of the attainable.

Wind-instruments have something archaic about them. This must have been how man discovered music: An extension of breath, the externalisation of a fundamental physical need. A long story. The Trio de CIarinettes looks back on this development from an extraordinarily advanced state. Jacques di Donato, Louis ScIavis and Armand Angster master their instruments - with all due respect for the big word - perfectly. In this perfection there is no coldness; there is instead an almost immeasurable freedom to become involved in this moment of sound. Freedom is catching (maybe that is what we like so much?). The archaic and the perfect do not necessarily exclude each other. Anyone who has experienced and seen the Trio de Clarinettes live, and can compare them to the existing recording of the Total Music Meeting 1990, will realise what a high level of identical reproducibility characterises this music, and this cannot be achieved without technical perfection. Nevertheless in concert the unmistakable impression is created that the music has just this minute come into being, here, where it is being played and heard. There is no breach in the approach towards playing composed or improvised passages - not even when there is a structural and audible break on the surface of the music. The three clarinettists are at all times as at home with their music as they are with themselves. To play the clarinet is to enrich the sound-range of breath (was it the breath which lifted us onto the chair?).

One could add a description of the music. A characterisation of intertwining lines; of the warm, full, of the shrill, expressive ecstatic, of the finger-snapping percussive sounds of three clarinets with different levels of pitch creating a friction, a constant interchange of similarities and contrasts; of the extended time of the solo played with circular breathing. One could emphasise a graceful dance-like theme from Sclavis' imaginary treasure-box of folklore, or a long Boulez-quotation, the striking rhythm, the elementary force in the deepest notes of the contra-bass clarinet, the melodious consistency of a solo free of kitsch. One could. But why?

Perfection blinkers the critic's sight, and this is not conducive to understanding. We can only admire and try to describe from an inadequate viewpoint. Consider ourselves lucky in the experience. Because something is happening which we cannot immediately understand, we tend to think it must be complicated. There is a lot to be said for this. It might however be very simple: That music gets through to people without having to ingratiate itself. Is that simple?

One thing is always permissible in the face of perfection: Naivety. Just finding something beautiful without watching for points in need of improvement. The Trio as a compact, archaic entity. A kind of music, the sum of which is more than just the combined efforts of three people.
Indescribable. Trio de Clarinettes.

Translation: Margaret Neuendorf

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